For several years, Parkhurst at Lycoming College has maintained a partnership with the American Rescue Workers (ARW) where unused and perishable food from the dining services operation is donated to the organization at the end of each semester. In the fall of 2013, Michael Kane, a recent Lycoming College graduate and the men’s program director for ARW, reached out to Leslie Ekstrand, Parkhurst Dining General Manager at Lycoming College, and proposed an initiative that would allow the organization to recover the leftover food from each meal period.
Little did Michael know that while he and Leslie worked on the logistics of this ambitious plan, others in the Lycoming College community were also discovering the need to minimize food waste on campus. Students Lynette Dooley, Samantha Hewitt and Emily Verbonsky are members of Lycoming College’s Student Sustainability Committee. While attending a conference they learned about the Food Recovery Network (FRN), an organization that unites college students at campuses across the country to help save some of the 36 million tons of food that goes to waste in the United States each year. Eager to begin their own FRN chapter within the Lycoming College community, Lynette, Samantha, and Emily reached out to Leslie who put them in touch with Mike to learn about his initiative to support the ARW. After much discussion between the members of Lycoming College Sustainability Committee, Mike, and Leslie a plan was put in place to collect and donate a huge portion of the unused food waste.
After lunch and dinner each day, unused food from the dining hall is packaged by Parkhurst Dining team members in reusable containers purchased through a grant from the Food Recovery Network. FRN student volunteers then pick up and deliver the food to the ARW everyday. Since the program began in January of 2014, more than 5 tons of food have been diverted from the landfill to help feed hungry people within the community.
Michael Kane is thrilled with the results. “The food from this program has been a blessing in relieving the burden of preparing the entrees every day,” he said. “Along with feeding our residents, we have been able to feed more people off of the streets. I am only aware of five or six free dinners offered in Williamsport each month, so being able to say yes to hungry people who aren’t on our program has been a positive change for this community.”
Parkhurst is proud to be a part of the food donation program at Lycoming College and participates in similar initiatives at Allegheny College and Mercyhurst University.